Out of the Silent Planet

by C. S. Lewis

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Out of the Silent Planet Summary

Dr. Elwin Ransom's adventure begins in the English countryside. While seeking shelter from a storm, he meets a frantic farm woman worried about her mentally disabled son Harry, who hasn't returned from his job at a neighbor's house. Ransom walks over to the neighbor's house, where he finds Harry defending himself from the owner, Professor Weston.

  • Weston's friend Devine recognizes Ransom as an old schoolmate. Together, Weston and Devine let Harry go and invite Ransom for a drink. Ransom realizes too late that Weston has drugged him. He wakes up on a spaceship headed for Malacandra, where he will be given to the alien Sorns as a human sacrifice.
  • The fourteen-foot-tall Sorns approach the three men at their camp on Malacandra. Just as Ransom is to be handed over, a giant sea monster attacks. Ransom escapes into the wilds of Malacandra, where he meets Hyoi, a member of the Hrossa race. The Hrossa resemble large otters and worship a spirit named Oyarsa.
  • Hyoi, Ransom, and their friend Whin go hunting for the hranka, the sea monster that saved Ransom before. A spirit visits Ransom, ordering him to visit Oyarsa. He disobeys, and Hyoi is killed as a result. Ransom then seeks out Oyarsa, who gives him the option of returning home to Earth or staying on Malacandra, which has been identified as Mars. Ransom chooses to return. 

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Elwin Ransom is on vacation, taking a walking tour alone through the English countryside. Seeking shelter from the rain and lodging for the night, he meets a farm woman, frantic that her mentally disabled son, Harry, has not yet come home from his job at a neighboring professor’s home. Hoping this professor might provide lodging, he promises to find Harry.

The professor’s house is dark and locked. Ransom squeezes through the hedge and finds Professor Weston and his friend, Devine, in a scuffle with young Harry. Startled, they let Harry go. Devine recognizes Ransom as an old schoolmate and then introduces him to Weston, a renowned physicist. They offer Ransom a drink, and Ransom realizes too late that he has been drugged.

Ransom regains consciousness aboard a spaceship. He overhears Weston and Devine say they are returning to Malacandra, where aliens called sorns ordered them to bring a human sacrifice. Ransom realizes he is that sacrifice.

As they travel, Ransom finds that space is not black, cold, or vacant but flooded with invigorating light. A month later, they land on Malacandra. The ground is covered by a rubbery pink vegetation, the sky is pale blue, and the distant mountains are lavender: It is a bright, pastel world. Since the gravity is so low, everything (mountains, trees, ocean waves) is thinner and taller than on Earth.

The three men set up camp. Six sorns approach, each one fourteen feet tall, pale, and spidery thin. Devine and Weston grab Ransom and pull him toward the sorns, but as they step into a lake, a large sea monster with crocodile-like jaws attacks them. As Devine and Weston shoot at it, Ransom escapes. The next day, Ransom encounters an alien that looks like a tall otter. They stare curiously at each other and try to communicate. The alien is a hross, and Ransom is eager to learn its language. After a long, choppy boat ride and a short walk, they arrive at the hross village.

Ransom lives peacefully among the hrossa for about five weeks, studying the language and becoming close friends with Hyoi, the hross who first found him. He learns that in addition to sorns and hrossa, there is a third intelligent species on the planet called pfifltriggi, crafters who make articles from gold. The three species, or hnau, live in harmony.

Ransom is also instructed in their religion: Maleldil the Young created all things, and now lives with the Old One. A spirit called Oyarsa rules the whole planet, and lesser spirit beings named eldil frequently visit the planet and talk to its inhabitants. The hrossa insist that Ransom should go to Oyarsa. Ransom tells the hrossa about the sea monster with the crocodile jaws. They get intensely excited: The hnakra has not been seen for many years. The greatest honor in their culture is to kill the hnakra. The entire village begins to prepare their boats and spears for the great hunt. Ransom is honored by an invitation to fight alongside Hyoi and Whin. As they seek the hnakra, an eldil appears and commands Ransom to go to Oyarsa. Ransom refuses. Immediately the hnakra appears. After a furious fight, Ransom, Hyoi, and Whin kill it. As they rest on the shore, jubilant in their victory, Hyoi is suddenly shot and killed by Weston, who had been hiding in the forest. As he dies, Hyoi calls Ransom his eternal brother because they have slain the hnakra together.

Whin tells Ransom that Hyoi has died because Ransom had disobeyed the eldil. Ransom leaves immediately to seek Oyarsa. He climbs a steep mountain,...

(This entire section contains 1154 words.)

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where he meets Augray, a sorn. Augray gives him oxygen and food, and shows him Earth through his telescope. Augray calls Earth Thulcandra, which means “the silent planet.” The next day, Ransom climbs onto Augray’s shoulder, and Augray carries him to Meldilorn, an island covered with huge golden flowers and filled with eldils. While exploring the island, Ransom sees a row of stone monoliths, each one bearing an intricate relief carving of significant events. One shows the solar system, and by studying it, Ransom realizes Malacandra is Mars. A pfifltrigg named Kanakaberaka carves a likeness of Ransom, Weston, Devine, and their spaceship into a monolith.

The next morning, Ransom is awakened by an eldil who announces, “Oyarsa sends for you.” Ransom walks between two long rows of hrossa, sorns, and pfifltriggi to where Oyarsa appears as a shimmer of light hovering over the water. Oyarsa says that he sent for Ransom to learn about Earth. He explains that each planet has its own Oyarsa, but that long ago the Oyarsa of Earth had rebelled against the Old One. Since then, no word has come from the silent planet. Weston and Devine also are brought before Oyarsa. They cannot see Oyarsa and suspect a trick. Weston bellows, in his broken version of the Martian language, “Everyone who no do all we say pouff! bang! we kill him.” Then Weston tries to bribe them with cheap beads. They burst out laughing: Weston is making a fool of himself.

Oyarsa orders Weston to be taken away and doused with cold water, hoping to bring him to his senses. Meanwhile, the Malacandrians sing a beautiful, elaborate funeral song to honor Hyoi and the two other hrossa that Weston had murdered. Then, with blinding light, Oyarsa disintegrates the three bodies. Weston returns dripping wet, and answers Oyarsa’s questions, with Ransom acting as interpreter. Weston says he wants to perpetuate the human race on other planets. He expects Oyarsa to be impressed, but instead Oyarsa becomes convinced that Weston is utterly corrupt. Oyarsa orders Weston and Devine to return to Earth. He gives them exactly ninety days’ worth of air and food.

Oyarsa dismisses Weston and Devine and talks with Ransom about Earth. He gives Ransom the choice to remain on Malacandra or to return to Thulcandra. Ransom chooses to return. On the trip back, the spaceship passes dangerously close to the sun. Then the moon cuts in front of them, and they are forced to turn the ship away from Earth. Realizing they are almost out of air and food, Ransom returns to his cabin to prepare for death. He falls asleep, and when he wakes up, he hears rain. The ship has somehow landed on Earth.

Ransom emerges from the ship and walks half an hour through the English countryside. Suddenly he hears a loud noise as the ship disintegrates. He walks into a pub and orders a pint of bitter. Ransom falls ill and fears that the trip was a delusion. Then he receives a letter from Lewis asking about the word “Oyarses,” found in an ancient book. Ransom tells Lewis the whole story. They agree no one would believe it, so they decide to write the novel. The postscript is a letter from Ransom to Lewis criticizing the “mistakes” in the book.